Jan 26, 2015
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Maison Margiela, Saint Laurent... : why labels drop their first name

Jan 26, 2015

The change happened almost in secret, without an official press release. With John Galliano's arrival as artistic director at Maison Martin Margiela, the house dropped the Martin. Simply called Maison Margiela, the label has in a way rid itself of its founder.

In 2012, it was Yves Saint Laurent that lost its first name with the arrival of Hedi Slimane at its helm. In this case, the name was further modified with the addition of Paris, the label being rebaptised Saint Laurent Paris, as if to underline its origin, a gauge of style and know-how.

The new label for (Yves) Saint Laurent Paris

Any change in the name of a label, no matter how minor it is, is considered in great lengths and integrated into the brand's marketing strategy. In general, Houses avoid making official announcements of these changes, so as not to scare off customers and fans of the brand, as they wait for the new name to sink into the public's mindset.

In addition, this practice is commonplace in the business of fashion, where a Couture house often drops the first name of its creator following their death, such as Dior for Christian Dior, Chanel for Coco Chanel, and more recently, Versace for Gianni Versace.

"Dropping the designer's first name is a way of creating longevity for the brand, of making it eternal. It also marks the passage of a label's status to a global brand. Not to mention that a shorter and more simple name is even more recognisable and efficient to use and display on all the products, from glasses to fragrances," assesses Salvo Testa, a professor of Fashion Management at the University of Milano-Bicocca.

Some of the houses were ahead of their time in this regard. When designer Miuccia Prada, grand-daughter of Mario Prada, leather goods artisan at the head of his own brand, took over the family company, "Fratelli Prada", she renamed it simply "Prada", without any first name. It was a similar story for leather goods baggage handler Guccio Gucci. In the face of its success, the company founded in 1921, G. Gucci & C., was turned into Gucci in the 1960s by creating a new, very simple but very efficient logo: the famous interlocked two G's of Guccio Gucci.

"In general, labels are associated with the name of their creator and focus all of their communication around this often perceived image, whether it is of a designer as a demiurge, or even a type of guru. This mechanism makes it possible to build a coherent identity around the label. As long as the brand coincides with the figure, this type of communication works. When the founding designer is no longer there, this becomes more complicated," he continues.

In the case of Salvatore Ferragamo, for example, the brand still carries the name of its founder, the artisan shoemaker at the origin of the label. But as Salvo Testa says: "In some cases, the emotional element also plays a role. Wanda, Salvatore Ferragamo's wife, is still alive. She isn't ready to see her husband's name removed from the label."

Indeed, there are no fast rules. In Italy, for example, there are many businessmen who have named their brands after themselves even though they aren't necessarily designers, such as Brunello Cucinelli and Ermenegildo Zegna, all while retaining their first name, as lengthy as it may be...

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